Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Govt Refuses To Share Details On Agnipath Scheme Under RTI, Says File Marked ‘Secret’

September 12, 2022
Agnipath scheme

According to a letter from the ministry, the defence ministry declined to share the details of the inter-ministerial discussions behind the Agnipath scheme recruitment plan sought under the Right to Information Act (RTI), calling the file “secret”, Hindustan Times reported

According to RTI experts, the reason for the denial of information sought by Pune-based RTI activist Vihar Durve does not fall under Sections 8 and 9 of the Transparency Law. Sections 8 and 9 provide provisions under which information can be denied to an application.

On July 14, 2022, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in a press conference announced the launch of Agnipath, a military recruitment scheme that will recruit 46,000 soldiers between December 2022 and February 2023.

One-fourth of Agniveers, who will get a monthly salary of ₹30,000 in the first year and ₹40,000 in the fourth year, will be selected for permanent commission in the armed forces. At the end of the four-year contract, Agniveer will earn a corpus of ₹11 lakh, which the government says will help pave the way for self-employment or higher education. The central para-military forces and the Assam Rifles have assured 10% job opportunities for Agniveers.

Durve sought information on inter-departmental discussions and reasons for launching the Agneepath program to replace the current employment program, which provides long-term military employment. In his RTI request dated July 23, 2022, Durve also asked about the salary package and allowances negotiated for recruitment under the scheme.

As the information officer of the Department of Military Affairs denied giving the information about the scheme, which the Defence ministry implemented from the first week of August by conducing recruitment for armed forces in different parts of the country, Durve filed the first appeal with the department saying the information has been denied to him wrongly.

“The information is wrongly denied as ‘files marked as secret’ cannot be a reason for denying information,” Durve said. He filed an appeal against the denial of information with the first appellate authority, Abhimanyu Sahoo, in the defence ministry.

Responding to his first appeal filed on August 17, Sahoo said the information was denied.

“I had gone through your aforesaid 1st RTI appeal and the information provided by the CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) dated 29th July, 2022 with respect to your RTI application dated 11th July, 2022. In this connection, it is informed that the file on Agnipath Scheme approval has been classified as SECRET. Therefore, the response of the CPIO is in order,” he said.

Wajahat Habibullah, India’s first Chief Information Commissioner, said that the classification as “confidential” or “secret” is an internal procedure of the department and cannot be used to deny the information as this procedure is not mentioned under Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act.

“The information officer should have cited the specific RTI law section to deny information. Apply secret as a reason shows that the ministry is not keen to share the reasons for starting such an important scheme,” he said.